The geography in the West is quite diverse, including everything from coastlines, mountain ranges, deserts, valleys, and even a rainforest! The four mountain ranges in this region are the Rockies, the Coast Ranges, the Sierra Nevada, and the Cascade Mountains. The Sierra Nevada Mountains consist of some volcanoes! Even though they are extinct, some are still active, such as Mount Saint Helens, which erupted in 1980 and caused major damage and even death. In between these mountains lies many valleys and rivers, which provide rich soil to the region. The Great Basin, which lies in the middle of the West region, is a low, bowl shaped landform that is lower than the land surrounding it. The flat part of this basin is covered mostly by the Great Basin Desert and the Mojave Desert. Within the Mojave lies Death Valley, the hottest, driest, and lowest place in the United States. Some other interesting geographical features in the West are the Great Salt Lake and a rainforest that runs along the California coast.
Because of its vast size, the West has a very diverse climate; temperatures and weather can range dramatically even within the same state! For example, Washington and Oregon have mild seasons and a lot of rainfall, while states such as Wyoming, with higher elevations, have a great deal of snowfall that doesn’t melt for several months. California, which has low elevation and is located along the coast, is the home of one of the hottest places on Earth, Death Valley, whereas the average temperature in Colorado is about 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
A natural resource is something that occurs in nature and is used to make products that contribute to a region’s economy. The West has many useful natural resources such as trees, potatoes, pineapples, salt, and oil. Deposits of many minerals, including copper, gold, and silver, are found within the Rocky Mountains, making the West an excellent source for minerals. Perhaps the most useful mineral found in the West is silicon; this mineral is used to make computer parts. Because of the abundance of silicon, thousands of software and other technology companies are located in what is known as Silicon Valley, an area in San Francisco, California.
The West region is rich in culture, and food is a big part of that. The Pacific Ocean provides delicious seafood such as salmon, shellfish, and oysters, which are very popular in the region. Because of the many Chinese and Japanese immigrants, Asian foods such as sushi, chow mein, and egg foo young are popular in the West. If you travel to Hawaii, you can expect to partake in a pig roast, or a luau. Because of its close proximity to the beautiful coast, the West is known for surfing. Many other outdoor activities include hiking, mountain climbing, and kayaking. In the winter, skiing and snowboarding are popular, and many people travel to the various ski resort towns in Colorado and Utah. In Alaska, dogsledding is a popular sport, and in Hawaii, a dance called the hula is known around the world. Since Los Angeles is the entertainment hub of the United States, the West celebrates all kinds of music such as pop, rap, R&B, and country and western.
The West is an incredible place for tourists for many reasons. Some people travel to Hawaii and parts of California for the sunshine and the beaches, while others enjoy skiing in Colorado and Utah. The world’s first National Park, Yellowstone, is located in the West. Mostly in Wyoming, the park covers over 3,000 square miles and had over 4 million visitors in 2019! Other popular destinations are Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, Devils Tower in Wyoming, and the shows, casinos, and nightlife in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Space Needle, located in the heart of Seattle, Washington, is one of the most photographed structures in the world. It was built for the 1962 World Fair and is 605 feet tall. People from all over the world travel to Los Angeles, California to see the sets where movies are made, and maybe even bump into a celebrity!
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Our country is filled with diverse culture, land, attractions, and so much more. The regions of our country are all different in so many ways, and it is important for students to understand how and why. While studying the West region, students will show what they have learned through posters, spider maps, and other creative graphic organizers. The combined use of illustrations and words allows students with different learning styles to showcase their work in unique ways. Teachers may use the provided templates, or encourage students to start from scratch, allowing for more of a challenge and differentiated approach. Teachers may also assign an extension activity where the students write a report or create a powerpoint of all their storyboards to share.